• Pallavi Rao

The Sungudi Saree

It is Day8 of the #lockdown and this is a cream Sungudi cotton saree with phool-bail motif and a simple paisley Zari border.

We had a Radio Mirchi regional meet in Madurai some years ago. As always a fun-filled 2 day chockablock creative session. On my way back to the airport, lamented not managing local food in my itinerary.

Not much of a 'shopper' otherwise, this time I wanted to buy a saree. Not just any saree but specifically a Sungudi saree.

Of course, there is a story behind it. Everything has a story behind it, nahi? 😊

Bhaiya and I were kids then. 10 and 8 years old perhaps.

Bharti, Ushi and Srikant were our BEST friends then. Next door neighbors and family friends.

My childhood memories of summer days in Safdarjung Enclave is full of them. How after school we would wait for it to be 4 pm so that we could play together.

It could be anywhere. Our place. Their place. Our backyard which had a DIY jhoola that Daddy had made. The park. Anywhere. They lived on the floor above ours.

We were inseparable. What now is termed play-buddies, play-dates, err night-overs...well we did all that and more on a regular basis.

And then one day they told us they were shifting to another house in the next block. We were heartbroken.

Luckily however, the visits continued.

Mani Uncle and Savithri Aunty would pamper us with love and food in equal proportion.

The khushboo of tayyar sadam, sambar chawal with those freshly fried appadams would waft through the kitchen...sitting on the floor in a circle to eat off the steel thalis...chatting away...laughing away. We would not realise how much we ate as Uncle would keep refilling our plates chup chap.

Savithri aunty was beautiful. A tall frame for a Tamilian Mami, she had and wore the best of cotton sarees on a daily basis.

Yes. The Sungudi sarees. What a collection she had. I vividly remember the colors too. The typical mustard with chocolate brown dots. The purple saree with off-white dots...uff.

Needless to say, at that time and till many years later I did not know what it was called.

All I remembered was Savitri aunty tucking the Sungudi saree ka pallu and pleats on to the left side of her waist as she went about the chores of the house.

Once in a while she would enter our room to check if all was well with the 5 'Badmaash' bachche with a glass of Tang for everyone.

We would tire but refuse the afternoon nap to make the most of the day-spend.

When Amma and Daddy would come to pick us up in the evening, is when my torture would begin. The three would insist we do a night stay.

Bas. All my khushi and fun would disappear. I could not sleep without my folks. I would be on the verge of tears when they would pressurize me.

One such evening I started howling when I was made made fun of! And the same Sungudi saree ka pallu came peeche se to wipe some of those tears.

I requested the Madurai cab driver if we could very briefly stop at any saree shop for exactly 5 min. He was unsure if we would reach the airport in time. Strangely, I was ready to take the chance.

Don't remember the name of the shop but picked 2 sarees that day and managed to catch the flight too.

This is a slightly different version of a Sungudi which generally is like a let's say south ki bandhini...with dots all over a flat colour.

I picked this, because .... well...main kya karti...is saree ne kaha...mujhe le lelo please.

Kaise mana karti?

Till tomorrow. Stay safe. Stay home.

Pictures Courtesy Rian Narvekar

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